Having a disability is a characteristic – it does not make up the wholeness of someone’s character. Vazquez wants the world to know that people who experience disabilities play a role in education, today’s culture, in their communities, politics, and the economy. She wants to make it known that all people can be contributors to society as long as they are given a respectable place.
While growing up in the inner City of Newark, New Jersey, Vazquez was constantly reminded that the world considered her to be “different.” Vazquez could have easily ended up living a life stifled by low achievements. But with the confidence she gained from her mother and the high expectations of her teachers, Vazquez is now regarded as one of the nation’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.
During her freshmen year of high school, Sarah’s Resource Room teacher introduced her to the art of writing. For the first time Vazquez realized that writing allowed her to express the way she felt about the world. After graduation Vazquez went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University where she double majored in English and Psychology. In 2001, Vazquez began working with the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Special Education. She helped organize and present at the Dare to Dream Youth Leadership Conferences for thousands of students with Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Vazquez also holds a Masters in Disability Studies from the City University of New New York.
Vazquez has also presented at the Council for Exceptional Children’s International Teachers’ Convention, the staff at Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf. She was one of three advocates brought to Washington, DC by the Office of Special Education Projects to present during the national celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In 2011, Vazquez released an autobiography titled “Paved Roads” which details her early life’s journey. “Paved Roads” has been read by many stakeholders within the disability world.
Vazquez currently works for non-profit organization Neighbors-Inc which helps adults who experiences disabilities find community-based supports so they can enjoy the benefits of self-directing their lives. Whether she is giving advice to transitioning youth, facilitating workshops about diverse topics relating to people who experience disability, or challenging an audience of adopt more inclusive practices in all aspects of societal life, Vazquez’s message expresses a commitment to high expectations, and her unwavering belief that people who experiences disabilities are a important part of the fabric of today’s world.